Whistling Ridge decision contested

April 7, 2012

In early March, Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire approved the proposed Whistling Ridge wind power project to be sited near White Salmon on land owned by SDS Lumber and Broughton Lumber, paving the way for 35 turbines standing more than 400 feet tall.

On April 5, the nonprofit groups Friends of the Columbia Gorge and Save Our Scenic Area filed a petition for judicial review in the Thurston County Superior Court, challenging Gregoire's approval.

The petition for review lists 32 claims, focusing on zoning and forest practices violations as well as wildlife, scenic, noise and transportation impacts.

The petition asks the Thurston County Superior Court to decide the claims, rather than certifying the case for direct review by the Washington Supreme Court.

A primary focus of the FCG and SOSA petition asserts that the Washington State Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council, who produced the ruling on the project which Gregoire signed off on, erred in accepting claims of project compatibility with existing the Skamania County comprehensive plan and zoning laws.

According to FCG staff attorney Nathan Baker, "In 2009, Skamania County abandoned efforts to rezone the project site for wind energy development. Because Skamania County never finished its rezoning for this project, the project is prohibited under the County's rules."

Baker went on to assert that the EFSEC in its recommendation to Gregoire "failed to acknowledge these violations, thus making the governor's decision vulnerable on appeal."

Gregoire had signed off on the EFSEC final order which paved the way for 35 turbines - 15 fewer than originally proposed by Whistling Ridge.

If constructed, the facility would be sited about 7 miles west of White Salmon with turbines in view of Hood River, on privately held lands currently in commercial timber production.

Following notice of the turbine reduction, SDS President Jason Spadaro of Whistling Ridge LLC told Ted Sickinger of The Oregonian that the project was not currently financially viable.

The existing site certificate however, will remain valid for 10 years. With potential changes in the future economy, financial viability may return for the project in the future.

"This project, even scaled back to 35 turbines, is not worth sacrificing the unique scenic beauty and wildlife of the Columbia River Gorge," said Kevin Gorman, executive director for Friends of the Columbia Gorge.

"Friends of the Columbia Gorge supports responsible development of renewable energy sources, but the Whistling Ridge proposal is not responsible," said Gorman.

The governor's approved EFSEC ruling reduced turbine numbers primarily to mitigate visual impacts in sensitive scenic areas within the Gorge. Those 15 were described as "prominently visible" and "intrusive."

In its previously submitted petition, Whistling Ridge LLC had stated that elimination of the 15 denied turbines "kills the project."

If the project were to be constructed, the remaining proposed 426-foot towers would be sited atop several ridgelines visible throughout the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Act territory.

In a study submitted with the Whistling Ridge application, turbine visibility was noted from White Salmon, Viento State Park, the Historic Columbia River Highway, I-84 in both directions and Hood River.

"Icons of the Northwest, like the Columbia River Gorge, Mount Rainier and the Olympic Mountains, should be off-limits to large-scale energy development," said Gorman. "We can combat global warming without having to sacrifice our most special places and our core values."

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See www.co.hood-river.or.us to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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